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November 6, 2010

$2.1 million penalties in Gould pollution case

A Louisiana ship-operating company was sentenced in U.S. District Court in New Orleans on charges related to the illegal discharge of oil into the oceans, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

Galliano, La., headquartered Offshore Vessels LLC (OSV), formerly Edison Chouest Offshore Vessels LLC, was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $1,750,000 and remit a payment of $350,000 as community service to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The community service funds are to be used to study polar water pollution and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the Antarctic region. OSV also will serve a period of probation for three years, during which it will be required to operate under an Environmental Compliance Plan.

OSV pleaded guilty on July 22, 2010, to knowingly discharging waste oil from one of its vessels, in violation of the Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS).

"The criminal fine in this case will serve as a strong deterrent to all vessel companies, American and foreign, against deliberately violating the laws enacted to protect oceans," said Ignacia S. Moreno, Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. "The required payment will provide a means of studying polar water oil pollution and its impact on AntarcticaÕs fragile marine ecosystem."

OSV owned and operated the R/V Laurence M. Gould (R/V Gould). The R/V Gould was a 2,966 gross ton American-flagged vessel that served as an ice-breaking research vessel for the National Science Foundation on research voyages to and from Antarctica. In its guilty plea earlier this year, OSV admitted that crew members knowingly discharged oily wastewater from the bilge tank of the R/V Gould overboard to the high seas, in violation of APPS. In doing so, they bypassed the shipÕs oily-water separator, a pollution-control device. Regulations promulgated under APPS require that oily wastewater be discharged only after it has been sent through an oily water separator.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard Criminal Investigative Service. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Daniel Dooher of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Dorothy Manning Taylor.


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